Classes at Oberlin College were cancelled Monday amid a series of racially motivated attacks on the Ohio campus. An unidentified person was seen wearing a Ku Klux Klan-like uniform walking by the Afrikan Heritage House. This was the final straw that prompted the cancellation of all non-essential activities in lieu of a “Day of Solidarity.”
On March 1, the Oberlin Review published a timeline of the hate speech incidents that have recently plagued the campus. The incidents involve anti-Semitic, anti-gay, and racist remarks.
The e-mail sent to students on Monday read, in part:
"We are here to notify you all that there has been yet another bias and racist event on campus. A person wearing KKK regalia was spotted on South Campus around midnight near the ELC and South. This has been another event in a string of several reflecting a terrible pattern of racism, prejudice, queerphobia, anti-semitism and other bias attacks that are happening on Oberlin's campus. At this time, advocacy, support and solidarity are necessary emotionally, physically and spiritually."
Oberlin is a small liberal arts college and has a history of inclusivity as one of the first colleges to admit women and African Americans. That is perhaps why these incidents come as such a shock to so many students and faculty alike.
The school-wide bulletin called for all students and faculty to be in attendance for the Day of Solidarity. Nearly 1,000 students showed up to show their support for one another. That’s a lot of people when you consider that the campus only has 2,800 students.
There are those that believe canceling classes was a way to let the perpetrator(s) win. I disagree. The only way the perpetrator(s) would win is if the school ignored them all together. If everyone went on pretending like these issues weren’t happening or didn’t effect them. But they do and the school, in its wisdom, recognized this.
The school came out in support of openness and inclusiveness and sought to face these issues head on. It asked its students and faculty to do the same. The school cancelled classes, not for the perpetrator(s), but so that the issues that these incidents raise can be addressed with the seriousness they deserve.
The easy thing to do would have been to continue classes, to issue sporadic updates to students on e-mail or via their website. The much more difficult, but correct course of action, is to actively confront the issues at the core of these incidents. That’s exactly what the school is doing, and they should applauded, not admonished for it.